Most of what you are about to read came from the www.arrl.org web site; however, where applicable, I have interspersed my thoughts, in italics, as a member of ARES.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.
The ARES/SATERN/ activities attracted me because ECS was my reason for getting into amateur radio in the first place.
ARES Membership Requirements
Every licensed amateur, regardless of membership in ARRL or any other local or national organization is eligible to apply for membership in ARES. Training may be required or desired to participate fully in ARES. Please inquire at the local level for specific information. Because ARES is an Amateur Radio program, only licensed radio amateurs are eligible for membership. The possession of emergency-powered equipment is desirable, but is not a requirement for membership.
You need to be trained. In order to provide support in the event of an emergency—or even in a non-emergency situation—you need to have the proper training and licensing. Learn more about the ARRL Emergency Communications Training course.
They all require the ICS certifications which helps one think about where they would fit into a real emergency. That also makes it interesting to listen to the news events and think about how the ICS would work on those news events.
You need to be equipped with sustaining skills. What if when you get to a location, there is no food and the sleeping conditions are undesirable? Before you leave on your assignment, you need to make sure you have coping skills that enable you to be able to do your job operating under the conditions you are assigned to—from hardship conditions to making sure you’re able to work the equipment.
I never got into a real search and rescue situation. I did participate in several of the SAR drills at Prairie Center and do feel that if a real life situation would arise that I would be able to effectively participate.
You need to prepare your family for your absence. When you leave home and head for a disaster area, your family has to be both physically and mentally able to cope. After a disaster, when a volunteer comes home, he or she can be confronted by some mental health issues, for which there are several resources. Many volunteers experience everything from fatigue or exhaustion to depression.
By participating in these exercises and public service events I have learned about using my radios and working with a net control station under "field" conditions. I have learned about using tactical call signs along with my real call sign. I have learned to listen to other radio reports to see how they may affect my position in the event.
You need to find ways to volunteer. You would first want to become a member of your local ARES, CERT, RACES or local emergency management organization.
As far as getting involved, the best way would be to go to an ARES/SATERN meeting the second Monday of any month at Olathe Salvation Army building, see if that is what you want and sign up. ECS does their entry and sign-up in January and February of each year.
ARES involvement is interesting and worthwhile because it makes one think about being prepared for various situations.